Is Midsommar a folk horror film? Or is it, as writer/director Ari Aster says, a break-up revenge fantasy and a co-dependency fairy tale? Either way, it “breaks down your defenses and opens you to other influences”—which is how one of the characters describes a magical golden potion. Set in a deceptively innocent, sun-drenched, flower-filled meadow, Midsommar disorients the viewer as much as the sun that never sets.
The main character is recently orphaned Dani (Florence Pugh). With her four-year relationship to Christian running on inertia, she jumps at the chance to accompany him and his friends to a folk pageant in Sweden. A healing trip to celebrate the summer solstice on a family farm morphs into a violent ancient fertility ritual, including a blood and fire purge with communal eating and sex.
All dining is al fresco. Table configurations, manners, and food and drink reflect what is happening emotionally. At the beginning, the rectangular tables are in a disjointed “X” arrangement, the Americans ostracized at right angles to the suspicious Swedes.
The Swedes have reason to be suspicious; these students are exceedingly culturally insensitive. When they decide to go to Sweden, one of them asks, “Are there any meatball sex clubs we should hit up?” At the commune, the rude Americans start eating before the others, and make disparaging remarks about the food.
Food, often golden in color, also accentuates the sun-worshiping cult. At breakfast there are bright yellow flowers and baked goods. In the evenings, the tables are filled with wedges of amber cheese and bowls of carrot strips. For her birthday, Dani gets a thick slice of yellow cake with a candle on it. There is always golden liquid in the glasses.
The drinks are drugs, and are often gender-specific. To give them stamina for the May Queen dance competition, Dani and the other women get a special tea—a golden drink made of plants mashed in a mortar and pestle. The toast, “Skol!” is a reminder that the Vikings celebrated their victories by drinking from the skulls of their enemies.
All of the Americans have different experiences. Dani seems to be getting not the family she wants, but the one she needs. The women invite her into the sunny rustic kitchen. Its baskets of apples, women rolling out dough together for perfect individual pies, and open hearth cooking in the huge stone fireplace belie what is happening elsewhere on the commune.
At the end, when all of the relationships have been straightened out, so are the tables. Everyone sits together at one long, straight, rectangular table with a glistening roasted meat feast—although what meat is not clear. The table is aligned with a mysterious triangular golden building at the end of the field. And it is up to Dani, now wearing white like the Swedes, to make a life-or-death choice for everyone.
For our menu, we’re going with more traditional Scandinavian food, although we are continuing the sun theme with an orange-twisted Negroni, Caramelized Carrots, and Golden Olive Oil Cake.
To Enjoy While Watching Midsommar
Absinthe was illegal for years because it was wrongly thought to be hallucinogenic. Here, it adds subtle herbal and anise notes to the classic drink of gin, vermouth, and Campari.
This beef and pork mixture is extended deliciously with sautéed onions and milk-soaked bread. A bit of allspice is the signature seasoning. With a chicken stock-based buttery gravy, these meatballs can double as an appetizer or main course.
It might sound intimidating to make gravlax from scratch, but it’s quite simple, requiring only a few ingredients and a few days. Toasting the curing spices—caraway and coriander—intensifies their flavor. After a few days of curing, top it with a creamy vinaigrette spiked with mustard and dill.
Twice cooking these carrots—first boiling, then baking—is the trick to getting depth of flavor. The sugar in the caramelized carrots contrasts nicely with the nutty sesame dressing. A squeeze of lemon brightens it all.
Olive oil is the star in this one-bowl cake. Freshly grated lemon zest and egg yolk contribute to its glorious golden color. A quick mix and an approximately half hour bake produce a nice, lofty cake that can be served with fruit or whipped cream.
Editor’s note: This article is part of a new series developed with A24 to celebrate the marriage of food and film during this period of self-isolation.
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